The mother of the two young sisters found dead in New York’s Hudson River last week told police that her family had been ordered to leave the United States after her daughters reportedly applied for political asylum.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, sisters Tala Farea, 16, and Rotana Farea, 22, were found dead on October 24 on the edge of the Hudson River near Manhattan’s Riverside Park on the Upper West Side. The bodies were bound together at the ankles and possibly the waist; more recently, investigators told the Associated Press that the bodies were facing each other.
Initially, investigators had speculated that the teen and her sister may have jumped from the George Washington Bridge in a suicide pact, but a law enforcement source told the New York Times this week that authorities no longer believe this happened, as the bodies showed no sign of visible trauma, and given the short time they were in the water, a suicide jump would have likely occurred during daylight hours and been seen by witnesses. Authorities have not said whether they are investigating the deaths as a homicide.
The sisters had reportedly moved to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia with their family — parents and two brothers — in 2015, and had been living in Fairfax, Virginia before their deaths. According to the Associated Press, Tala and Rotana’s mother told detectives that her family had received a call from the Saudi Arabian Embassy last week with an order for the family to leave the U.S. after her daughters had applied for political asylum. The call reportedly came a day before the bodies were found.
It remains unclear why the sisters were in New York at the time they were found dead. Multiple reports, some citing family members, have said that Rotana had chosen to come to New York to continue her studies as a computer and technology student, though it is not known if or where she was enrolled. A relative told Arab News, an English-language Saudi Arabian newspaper, this week that Tala had followed her sister to New York in August without notifying her family, prompting them to file a missing persons report. The same outlet reported that the family claimed to have called off the missing persons search a week later after they learned that Tala was with her sister. But the family is believed to have lost contact with both Tala and Rotana about a week before their bodies were discovered in the Hudson River.
The Associated Press confirmed that Rotana Farea had previously been enrolled at George Mason University in Fairfax. A representative for the school told the Associated Press that Rotana had withdrawn in the spring.
Citing law enforcement sources, AM New York reported that both sisters had been reported missing in December 2017, but that police found them living in a homeless shelter. According to the law enforcement source who declined to be identified, the sisters were considered safe in the shelter and were not returned to their families, and may never have returned to the Fairfax home.
An unidentified relative who spoke to Arab News said the sisters were happy at home and denied that they had run away.
“They were just like any one of us, they were a happy family,” the relative told Arab News. “They were comfortable and at ease with everyone, and so the rumors that they ran away from home were beyond us. It’s impossible. Their mother was naturally protective, but in no way was their household problematic for them to run away.”
The relative confirmed that the family had reported Tala missing after she went to visit her sister in New York, but said the family called of the missing persons search after learning that the teenager was safe with her older sister.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, the Saudi Arabia’s Consulate General posted a statement on social media Tuesday saying that it was working with U.S. authorities to investigate the deaths and that it had “appointed an attorney to follow the case closely.”
— القنصلية العامة في نيويورك (@KSAconsulateNY) October 30, 2018
CrimeOnline will provide further updates once more information is available.